Body, Influence, Motivation

Written Following the New York IDEA Conference, October 2005

by Phil Kaplan


Strategy. Calorie. Metabolism.

What do those three words have in common?

Hmm. They don't rhyme, they aren't found anywhere near each other in the dictionary, and they're not found together in the lyrics of any Eminem song. What in the world do they have in common?

OK, OK, I'll tell you. What they have in common is . . . they're all misunderstood!



I know this article will be read primarily by personal trainers, and I know trainers might very well be able to define calorie and metabolism with pinpoint accuracy. I'm also certain that if those very same trainers asked their clients to define the word calorie, they'd get answers something like . . .

"It's . . . ummm . . . the food thing."

Defining metabolism, in my experience with the general public, is often a task waived and replaced by an example of someone with a "fast one."

"This lady, at work, her name's Heather, and like she can eat anything. We went to lunch and she had two desserts and she doesn't gain a pound. Heather is one of those people with a fast metabolism"

There's usually a Part 2 that goes something like this . . .

"We hate Heather."

Try telling a new client that a calorie is a unit of heat and you'll get that blank stare seventh graders wear all over their faces when the teacher asks them one of those questions intended to show they weren't paying attention. Tell that same client that they actually have control over metabolism and the blank stare turns into astonishment.


That leaves the word "Strategy."

At the IDEA Conference I conducted a session that addressed some of the primary flaws in the personal training mindset. When trainers, as a group, are asked what separates them from "the other fitness and weight loss offerings," they usually stand united behind a common response. The proudly boast, "we deliver results!"

Here's an interesting paradox. They haven't any doubt, at least when stating their unique position, that they are capable of delivering results, but when I ask if they're willing to guarantee those results, the answer is a near-unanimous "no."

I hope at the very least I got some of the 125 people in the room to think, to question, and to reframe things. If you are, in fact, capable of delivering the results people desire and deserve, shouldn't you be willing to stand behind the promise? After all, ab devices, fat burners, and body wraps are all sold using the promise of "results." If you are really different than the product hawkers, how can consumers separate the promises?

I believe all competent trainers should guarantee results. I realize at this point in time I'm in the minority, at least as far as personal trainers go, but I've been operating with an unconditional money back guarantee since 1986 so I ask of others only what I'd ask of myself.

Personal trainers believe the results guarantee is dangerous to their financial health, as clients may request refunds, and they're usually quick to point out that they can only advise and instruct, they can't "control" their clients.

I don't believe we need to control anybody, but I've learned that the key to comfortably maintaining a "results guarantee" is . . . STRATEGY!

The STRATEGY must have its foundation in the proverbial WIN-WIN. That term may be overused, but here it unquestionably applies. A Personal Fitness Trainer has the enviable ability to prosper by bettering the lives of others.

If the trainer becomes parasitic, collects money and fails to deliver a desired result, he or she is contributing to the clouded perception that the general public holds on to regarding the questionable professionalism of "the fitness expert." If the client gets results, but the trainer fails to prosper, the "career" is short-lived and the potential to make a measurable change upon our population is squashed.

The WIN-WIN suggests that trainers prospers, the clients achieve results, and while in theory that scenario sounds simplistic, it's a rarity when weighed against the volume of trainers and the mass of frustrated and disappointed clients.

At the onset of this article I addressed three words, and I've touched on defining two of them.

A calorie (kilocalorie) is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kg. of water one degree Celsius.

Metabolism is the sum total of anabolism, catabolism, and energy production or more concisely, the speed at which the body converts fuel into . . . . well . . . heat!

That leaves on more word that bears defining.


Before I define what I mean by "strategy," let me tell you what it isn't.

It isn't "a plan."

It isn't a clear map that runs from A to B and B to C.

Trainers should learn to plan, but it isn't enough, at least not if a win-win and a results guarantee are desired. In order to comfortably guarantee an outcome, trainers need a strategy. A strategy is analagous to a skeleton with limitless movement patterns. If someone unexpectedly throws a baseball at your head, the skeleton you own allows you to shift left, shift right, or duck in response to the oncoming peril. The "skeleton" also, however, allows you to stand your ground if someone's coming toward your lips with a kiss or an ice cream cone.

We can't predict whether the rock or the ice cream cone is around the next corner, so we need to rely on the skeleton's mobility. Ditto for our strategy.

NFL teams need strategies. Sure, they can plan to pass for 300 yards, or average 12 yards per running play, but the plan fails to take into consideration the uncertainty of the defense. The offensive coordinator's strategic ability can respond to an unexpected blitz, to a defense opening up holes in an offensive line, or to a defensive formation shutting down a running game, but a rigid plan can not. It's limited by its own rigidity.

While arrogant coaches and quarterbacks throughout the years have "guaranteed" wins, the reality is, the two teams have conflicting goals and one team has to go down for the other to emerge victorious. Personal Trainers need strategy, but they have a massive advantage over NFL competitors. Their goals for the client and the client's personal goals align.


You now know what a strategy isn't. Let's discuss what a strategy is.

It's a system for identifying challenges and converting them into opportunity

It's a system for avoiding reaction and finding response

It's a reference for making and facilitating quality decisions.


It should now come with a softer blow when I make two points that some trainers may find abrasive:

1. If you're not willing to make and stand behind a guarantee there's something flawed in your approach

2. Trainers are notorious for passing blame and seeing their clients' "excuses" while they escape responsibility by making excuses of their own

I challenge you to take responsibility right now, to put all excuses aside, and to recognize that you MUST apply strategy, that the strategy is vital to your ability to deliver results consistently, and that without a three-part strategy, you stand to become a mediocre trainer at best.




You won't learn strategic methodologies in your certification study guides, so I encourage you to seek out a different type of education, one that involves human response, an understanding of emotion, and a willingness to apply a subtle but necessary pressure to get people connected to the need to commit to a result-oriented program.


The personal training relationship must begin with an assessment, but the assessment, as I've learned to conduct it, goes way beyond Sit and Reach and VO2 Max. The assessment is an ideal opportunity to identify potential obstacles, to identify negative self-talk, and to help a client to recognize false beliefs that might serve as pitfalls if they aren't replaced by new empowering beliefs.

I begin the assessment by asking "how do you feel about" and "how would you rate" type questions. They give me immediate insight into potential. I probe, I explore, and I identify those issues I know have to be addressed if I'm going to initiate forward momentum and stay on track toward an agreed upon set of goals.

I teach fitness professionals to master influence by finding a comfort level in conversationally adapting my NAVAQA strategy. NAVAQA is an acronym, each letter standing for a step in the influence process:

  • Need - what is the hidden pain, the perceived "need" the client hopes to fill by training with you
  • Ammunition - find out, in advance, the emotion-driven self talk that can motivate or discourage
  • Vehicle - prove that you are the vehicle to get the client from the present to the desired future
  • Alternatives - help the client identify that the decision made in the moment affects outcome
  • Qualify - make sure your influence attempt is having impact before asking for an action
  • Advise - do not shift into "salesperson" mode, but instead remain in the role of a confidant, an advisor



I have a "skeleton" of a training strategy that goes way beyond sets and reps. It's delivered in my TRANSFORM! program in a simple format that anyone can follow.

It begins, after assessment, with a "metabolic efficiency" period where I help the client develop new habits and deliver clear evidence that the client has control over metabolism

I then progress to a "Strength & Growth" phase, where we manipulate body composition and help the client fully buy-in to the virtue of muscle maintenance

Once we've proven the client has control over metabolism and body composition, we combine functional movement, aerobic movement, and resistance exercise to "shape" the foundation of the body (fast and slow twitch muscle fiber).

If weight loss is a goal, we progress into a fat liberation phase where we make nutritional shifts and training adaptations to facilitate amplified fat release.

This is the outline of a strategy, not a plan. The strategy is a skeleton, but the specifics may vary from client to client, and personal attitudes, beliefs, and levels of adherence dictate the rate at which we progress through the process. It's a strategy I can stand behind, as each "phase" comes with its own evidence procedure. There isn't any question 'it's working."



Motivation is complex, but I've learned to link each client with specific internal strategies that he or she uses to motivate or de-motivate him or herself.

Yes, I realize what I said. A demotivated client can blame external factors, but those external factors were simply triggers that led the client to see visions (images), speak internally, and experience feelings that lead to a given emotional state. When I uncover the "how to" each client uses to create a given emotional state, I can find emotional buttons and triggers that shift doubt to motivation.

Is that enough information for you to master "Strategy?" Of course not. Mastery takes time, practice, refinement, experimentation, self-examination, constructive criticism, and a willingness to get better and better. I hope, at the very least, this helped you re-think the limitations most trainers place upon their value, and if I prompted you to question whether there's more for you to learn, whether there's an enitre universe beyond functional movements and sets and reps training, I feel I've done some good.

Now follow your heart, commit to being the best you can be, and recognize that as soon as you begin operating at a level of excellence, others will be following in your footsteps. To stay on top you have to continue to seek forward progress, thus, the words I've always used to conclude my professional newsletters . . .



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